Talking To Your Kids When Bad Things Happen – Part 1

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By Mary Jo Rapini, MEd, LPC

familywalk2With the recent happenings in Texas, we, as parents, are faced with the question of how do we talk to our children about what happened, and then help them feel safe and reassured that it won’t happen to them?

This is one of those issues that parents find so difficult. Every parent I know wants their child to be safe in their environment and when something such as a shooting occurs the parents have little control. Beyond our comprehension is the fact that when random violence happens no one has control. When someone wants to kill, and is prepared to die themselves then the best anyone can do is to protect themselves from the mad man’s rage.

Spring is a busy time of the year, but taking time to help your child process this now will help prevent them suffering emotionally in the future. If you consider this as a process and let it unfold rather than force the conversation, your child will be able to understand or at least feel less fear from it happening to them as time goes on. As a parent your immediate concern is with the safety of your child, and having a plan or something you can do will help both you and your child feel better.

I have suggestions below that will help you help your child. If you notice your child being anxious and fearful for more than two weeks consistently, it will be helpful to talk to your pediatrician and perhaps a counselor.

* Parents are a barometer for their children, and children are skilled with reading their parent’s emotions. So, before you talk to your children, make sure you know how you feel about what happened, and if you are anxious or not ready to help your child feel secure, delay talking with them about it

* Don’t mention the trauma part to your children and don’t assume what they are afraid of. Rather, ask them specifically so you won’t introduce another possible fear. If they mention they are afraid that something bad may happen to them, validate that by saying it’s natural to feel that way, but also tell them you are going to do everything you can to keep them safe.

* Limit the news in your home regarding the tragedies. Children don’t understand the replays and they may be at the level of thinking each time they view the incident that it is happening again. The visual parts as well as the audio accounts of the recent tragedies once seen and heard may create anxiety, nightmares, and depression in children.

Stay tuned for part 2 of this article shortly…..

– Mary Jo Rapini, MEd, LPC, is a licensed psychotherapist and co-author with Janine J. Sherman, of Start Talking: A Girl’s Guide for You and Your Mom About Health, Sex or Whatever. Read more about the book at and more about Rapini at